Online STI Testing & Youth

(October 2010 – September 2012; CIHR)

Principal Investigator(s): Jean Shoveller
Co-Investigator(s): Mark Gilbert; Gina Ogilvie; John Oliffe

New interventions, such as BC’s Online Sexual Health Services Program (OSHSP), are being launched to complement existing face-to-face clinical services, in the hopes that they may improve youth participation in STI/HIV testing. Seeking STI testing remains a deeply stigmatized behaviour, a reality that is unlikely to be fully remedied by online services (e.g., face-to-face enactments of gendered stereotypes can also be represented online through a text-based medium). Unfortunately, we do not yet fully appreciate how important social factors (e.g., social norms; stereotypes about men’s and women’s responsibilities for sexual health) affect experiences with online STI testing (particularly within vulnerable subgroups of youth).

This study sought to better understand youth’s perspectives on the ways in which important aspects of their social contexts (e.g., stigma; gendered stereotypes) affect their engagement in this and other sexual health promotion activities. We used multiple data collection and analysis techniques (e.g., focus groups and individual in-depth interviews; a Youth Roundtable to refine analysis from focus groups and individual interviews and a Youth Working Group to provide insights into the development and design of the look, feel and content of website). Throughout the project, a series of “Reality Checks” with youth were also used to obtain feedback on emerging versions of the website, with a particular emphasis on checking in with vulnerable subgroups of youth. The 2-year study was being conducted in Greater Vancouver, and adopted participatory approaches. We will use the new information gathered during our study to inform the development and design of an online STI testing service in BC.

Total: $120,000